I’m really good at sleeping.
Put down your pitchforks, ladies. I’m not saying that I get enough sleep. I have a toddler who likes to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, and a neighborhood full of barky dogs. But when I am able to catch some shut-eye, I excel at it.
When I went into labor with my daughter Lucy, my water broke at midnight. I hadn’t had any contractions yet – or if I had, I hadn’t noticed (because sleep). I got out of bed, panicked briefly, my husband texted our doula, my contractions started as I showered, and then I promptly climbed back into bed and went to sleep again. Fast forward twelve hours, and I sat on a yoga ball in my bedroom as things started to get real. In between contractions, I micro-napped against the bed or while leaning on my husband. Ten hours after that, I was sound asleep at the hospital, having squeezed out a small human, bathed, downed some pizza, taken a bunch of selfies, and declared it time for bed.
While my husband, a recovering insomniac, experiences pangs of jealousy at my heroic sleeping abilities, he benefits from my well-honed sleep skill. Honestly, it’s in everybody’s best interest that I get enough sleep. When I’m behind on sleep, I’m a terrible person. Irritable. Perpetually hangry. Detached. I’m a bad mom, a bad spouse, and a bad colleague. I set fires (figurative) and make messes (literal) until I can recoup my sleep deficit.
Maybe you’re behind on sleep thanks to the little bridge trolls living in your house and keeping you up at night. Maybe you can’t get out of your own head as you think about that budget presentation next week. Maybe you just binge-watched too many episodes of Game of Thrones too late at night. Whatever the case, let these tips guide you on your valiant quest for some quality Zzzzzzzz.
1. Prioritize. Sleep is one of the best things you can do for yourself – it’s self care in its truest and most important form. And I know how easy it is to push sleep away. I just need to fold that load of laundry. I just need to wipe down the counters. I just need to find the toddler shoe that mysteriously disappeared between dinner and bedtime. But it can wait. Dry shampoo and DVR exist for a reason, and that reason is so you can sleep a little bit longer.
2. Establish a routine. We learn with our kids that it’s often helpful to stick to a bedtime routine. The more cues we can give their little bodies that it’s time for sleep, the greater chance there is for a peaceful night. We’re no different as adults. Figure out what your cues are – an evening skincare routine, setting out clothing for the next day, listening to some ASMR. Whatever it is that emotionally prepares you for a restorative night, do that.
3. Set the scene. I’m not going to tell you to charge your phone in the bathroom instead of on your nightstand. I’m not going to tell you to skip TV before bed. I’m an actual adult human person. I depend on those things for survival. But you can create a sleep-friendly room without sacrifice. Bedrooms should be dark and cool. Sheets should be soft, and pajamas should be comfortable. You want an eye mask? Great. I wear one for naps, and it’s a game changer. Just find your perfect set of variables and commit to them.
4. Protect your space. As a grown-up, you get to make decisions about your sleeping arrangements – whether or not the kid is in the bed with you, using a white noise machine, if it’s okay to not flush until morning. So make those decisions. When I have a cold and know I’m going to spend the night coughing and hacking, I self-exile to the guest room. The same goes for my husband. As much as we want to sleep in the same bed with each other, we also want both of us to get the best sleep possible. And when the alternative is a useless, cranky zombie, it’s a fair trade to make.
At least the dog gets enough sleep.